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Hodges catapult gun

by B.B. Pelletier

I have bad weather for the next several days, so I’m putting the Logun S-16s on hold. I’ll get back to it when I can. Today I’m taking a fun excursion into the bizarre with a big bore catapult gun – the Hodges.

Fine Hodges catapult gun, patented in 1849.

What is a catapult gun?
A catapult is another name for a slingshot, so a catapult GUN is a gun that propels its bullet by means of a built-in slingshot. We’ve looked at catapult guns before when we examined the Johnson, the Daisy 179 and the Sharpshooter. Today, we’re looking at a gun more than 150 years old and far more powerful than any catapult gun we’ve looked at to-date.

In 1849, British seaman Richard E. Hodges patented a gun that used India elastic bands to propel – something! Nobody I have spoken with knows for sure what the gun shot, though the launcher is large enough to hold a .43-caliber lead ball weighing 120 grains. Airgun collector Larry Hannusch owns a Hodges and has used surgical rubber tubing to shoot it at low velocity. He estimates that a velocity in the 400 f.p.s. region might be possible with enough bands, but he would never subject his gun to that kind of stress.

The Hodges most likely shot harpoons, like a modern speargun. Collectors believe the gun was meant for foraging, so sportsmanship wouldn’t enter into the equation and a harpoon from a gun like this could easily dispatch a small deer or pig. Remember that Hodges was a seaman and would appreciate the utility of a gun that was impervious to rain and salt spray.

The gun is made of iron or steel, brass and wood and is about the size of a modern 1894 Winchester .30/30 rifle. At the front, there are two brass figures of Roman soldiers projecting in a V away from the “muzzle.” These figures are the front holders for the looped elastic bands. The launcher slides in a captive track and has two brass pins sticking straight out to the side to hold the rear part of the bands. At the rear of the launcher, a flat bar with a slot cut in it sticks back to catch the gun’s sear.

The launcher has been slid to the rear to latch with the sear. The two brass pins that hold the elastic bands can be seen here. The breech cover is swung to the side so we may look into the breech and see the interaction of the sear with the launcher.

Here you see the flat bar from the rear of the launcher. The sear has not been positioned, but you can just see the lever that does it at the top of the photo.

To cock the gun, the launcher is slid back without the rubber bands attached to its pins. A lever on the right side of the receiver swings the sear up to catch the launcher and hold it fast. When the sear catches it, it stays in place and the bands are stretched one at a time until the shooter is satisfied. Use as many bands as will fit on the pins, although too many will cause the pins to start bending. You don’t want that!

Is this an AIR gun?
No, it is not. But neither is a CO2 gun, if you want to get technical. I include things like this in my discussion of airguns because nobody else seems to write much about them. That does push me into the neighborhood of crossbows, slingshots and even firearms, when I write about the BB gun that use caps. That’s why I pay attention to airsoft, which is another niche some airgunners don’t want to acknowledge. They are airguns the same as anything else we study. In the end, I think guns like the Hodges are good to know about, so we don’t make mistakes like the Colorado gunsmith who recently tried to patent a pellet rifle powered by a primer. The idea was already a century-and-a-half old when he applied!

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

37 thoughts on “Hodges catapult gun”

  1. Hey BB!

    What do you think of the Tech Force 78 Gold Series rifle? And what do you think about tech force in general?

    I also have a rifle competition tomorrow in California! Area 11 Championship!

  2. Bryan,

    The Tech Force 78 is a nice air rifle. You know it’s a copy of the Crosman 160 which is a classic.

    I did a review of this rifle back in November. See it here:


    The gun I looked at was the QB 78, but it’s the same gun. I also reviewed the new manual about the entire QB78 family of guns.

    The Gold series has a nicer stock and a gold-plated trigger. Other than that, it’s the same gun.

    Good luck in your match tomorrow!


  3. Bryan,

    Are you asking how many shots per fill? I don’t know, but the Pyramyd information comes straight from the manufacturer.

    However, I am talking about the S200 that Pyramyd AIR sells. You asked about the S200t, which is sold by Airguns of Arizona. That’s a target rifle and lower powered, so why don’t you ask them about the number of shots?


  4. One of the shooters in our 4-H air rifle club asked why some pellets have ribs along the skirt and others do not. Maybe you’ve already answered this, and can direct me to a previous blog.

    Thanks for all the information.

  5. Taking off on the “pellet by primer” idea – it seems to me that someone, somewhere must have offered a “super pellet” that had a small amount of a combustible propellant in its hollow tail. The propellant would ignite from the compressed air when the gun was fired, and boost the pellet’s velocity.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying it’s a good idea, for a variety of mechanical and legal issues. And I’ve known guys trying to do something like this on their own.

    But I’ve never heard of it being commercially offered.

  6. BB-
    Good post on the Hodges. These historical posts are always interesting even if they aren’t always about airguns. It’s just interesting, to me, to see human ingenuity come into play when devising these “primitive weapons”.

  7. B.B.

    I was wondering if a .177 at 1000-1200 f.p.s would take game more efficiently and at a farther distance than a .22 that has about 685 f.p.s ?

    I can’t decide on a Benjamin 392
    or one of the faster .177 models that are out there. Like, lets say the Gamo sport/Winchester/Remington type guns. I just want to be able to get the most for my money, and not be under gunned. I don’t want to feel like I got the air gun I never got to have as a child. But truly an efficient hunting/ADULT air rifle.

    thanks for your expertise

  8. B.B

    I realize that a Pellet guns, a Pellet gun, and I do honestly want to be able to take Raccoon sized game from 30 yards are so. I was wondering if the benjamin could penetrate a coyotes skull at or under 20 yards. I call them in pretty close. I under stand if it’s not even feesible, I’m just curious?

  9. Okay, you have asked a passle of questions. I’ll work back to front. yes, a pellet will penetrate a coyote’s skull, but I don’t think it’s the sporrsmanlike way to hunt them. I usually recommend a Career 707 or a Condor as a minimum weapon. The Condor is about as powerful as a .22 short.

    Coon-sized animals, yes. Up to 20 yards with a 392, and perhaps 35 yards with your powerful .177s. Yes, for once I’m going to say that if the contest is between a 392 and a true 1,000 f.p.s. .177, the smaller caliber wins by virtue of power. I would find the most accurate heavy pellet to get the velocity down under light speed, but such a gun will do a good job in the right hands.

    Now, you want a REAL bang for your buck? Spend a little more and get an ZH MP 513M in .22 caliber. But please read my review before you do.


  10. Adult air rifle

    In most cheaper so called 1000 fps gun are not, even still you will get more energy from a 18 grain .22 cal pellet at 685 fps than a 8 grain pellet at 1000 fps.

    But of course none of that matters if you can’t hit your target. I know I didn’t properly answer you question but the more info you have the happier you will be with you decision in the end.

  11. Thanks everyone for your info.

    I think the .22 would be nice to have for the knock down power.

    I already own a 715 fps .177 in the daisy 880. I just want more umph in my pudd’in.

    Adult air rifle

  12. Vince,

    the VL started out as a loose wad of material stuffed into the hollow skirt of a diabolo pellet, just like the gentleman stated. Diasy officials demonstrated it that way.

    When it was finally sold to the public, it was a hard plug of material attached to the base of a lead bullet. Point is, the pellet booster system has already been tried.


  13. B.B. posted above: “I would find the most accurate heavy pellet to get the velocity down under light speed…” Of course B.B. meant the speed of sound, not light, right B.B.? The speed of light, at 186,000 miles per second, has not yet been achieved by the airgun industry…but who knows what the future holds.

    As far as shooting at coyotes with a pellet having only 30 FPE or even less…I don’t consider anything less than a .22 rimfire magnum as adequate or sporting, at any distance, for coyotes, and that round has 324 FPE in its standard loading. Also, consult your State’s game laws and abide by them.

  14. MR. Mothra,

    I live in Texas and it’s by ANY means on private property. I could throw rocks if I wanted too. I was only curious if it was feesible with todays power and with head shots. I’m not an idiot, don’t worry I’m not some kid truck’n through the woods shooting my bb gun at coyotes. I have more power for that!! Just sick of ruining hides with fist sized holes. I call them in around 10-20 feet usually, 40 at the most. Not like in the north where you can shoot from a mile a way. Gotta be quite and hold still, cause they are right on top of you. That is what I call sportman like. thanks

  15. Point of fact: private property owners are not exempt from the game laws. Deer, coyotes, turkeys, etc. are not the private property of land owners, and a rancher (even in Texas) needs a hunting licence, and the laws of the State apply, to hunt native species on their own property. Whether you obey the game laws is up to you.

  16. What is your major malfunction?

    Point of fact: coyotes are not a game animal here in Texas and yes you have to have a hunting license to hunt them. As you do to even attempt to take any wildlife . Even with a pellet gun! Duh,

  17. You think your pretty smart taking a shot at B.B and my self. He was only making a point about the higher velocity .177. I was smart enough to read between the lines, as in “sarcasim”. I got exactly what he was saying. Point of fact:

  18. very confusing so many posts

    to the guy who was thinking about the 392.
    i recently bought one from Sports Authority for only $70!!!
    it was marked down to 90 then to 70
    i love it
    im not saying which gun to get but if you have a Sports Authoritynere you you might be able to save some $$$$

  19. Hey, anonomous with all them posts, ya’ll need to chill and stop taken it personal, nobody here knows ya. This heres a blog, anyone can ask questions and anyone can comment. Save yer arguments for a chatroom, okay.

  20. B.B.

    I just bought a Beeman Sportsman 1000 series in .22 caliber which I received yesterday. Got a Leapers 3-9×40 r/g scope to go with. Mounted it up, zeroed in – worked like a charm. Shot after shot I was getting results. Later that evening, I had a friend over. I showed him the air rifle.

    He broke the barrel to cock it, and left it there while he checked out the rest of the rifle. Well, he went to see if the safety catch was on, and he pulled the trigger. As you can imagine, the barrel snapped back into place with lots of force and quite a snap.

    I called him a moron, as we always joke around like that. We continued on our merry way, I didn’t think anything of it. Then, today – when I went to target shoot some cans in the back yard, like I had yesterday, I noticed my pellets were impacting far above the cans on a wood backing I created. Then, I noticed the barrel. It was bent upwards, yesterday, it had a downward droop, which if I understand – is how most air guns are manufactured… I ran out of elevation adjustments on the scope, and I don’t think this set of rings has elevation adjustments either. I bent the barrel back to the best of my ability, just with my hands, but to no avail. Still the pellets point of impact is above the zero on crosshair.

    This is only my second day with the gun! And it’s already ruined!

    … Or is it? Which is why I’m coming to you. Can I fix it by my own means. Or if it is broken, does Beeman cover this kind of thing in the warranty? Or will I have to buy a new barrel, perhaps, a new air gun?



  21. Jensen,

    Yep! Your friend is officially a moron. NEVER touch the trigger of a spring gun when the barrel or action is open!

    And, yes, the barrel is bent. It only takes one mistake to bend a barrel this way. And I suspect if you send it in for warranty they will refuse because this kind of damage is very obviously caused by abuse.

    The barrel must still be bent farther to straighten it again. If you have a good gunsmith, he should be able to straighten it for you. Airgun barrels are made of dead soft steel that bends very easily. The bend, by the way, is just in front of the base block that the barrel is pressed into.

    You should also check to see whether the stock is cracked. Wood stocks crack from this abuse about half the time.

    Jensen, if your friend had his fingers near the breech when the barrel snapped closed, they probably would have been cut off. Twenty years ago that was the basis for a lawsuit, but expert witnesses today are advising the court of the misconduct of owners who want to “see what happens” when they pull the trigger. What I’m saying is your insurance might have had to pay the hospital expenses and any damages awarded to your friend.


  22. Insurance?

    I’d be (almost) willing to bet that many folks don’t even think about liability insurance, in relation to airgun ownership, much less have any such insurance coverage.

    Interesting topic for a blog?


  23. Vince,
    There’s a very simple 20 gr..22 bullet that shoots 500 fps and hits hard enought to 30 yards with just a little sound of falling hammer. This bullet has no gun powder. Primer?, yes. very good for backyard pest control.
    There’s no air gun that is more silent than this.

  24. Yikes! That’s definitely not what I wanted to hear! Thank you for your input though. I knew I’d get an answer if I came to you.

    Is there any chance I can buy another barrel for it? I’m sure that would be the cheapest most pain free route to go if at all possible.

    I wouldn’t have the slightest idea where to find a gunsmith, the local gun shop?

    Thanks again B.B.


  25. Jensen,

    All is not lost. Your barrel can be straightened as it is in the gun. All It takes is the right fulcrum and anchors. Before you do, though, look through the barrel and see what you can see. That way you’ll have something to compare to when the barrel is straight again.

    You know where the bend is – just forward of the base block. And you know the direction it is bent.

    Take the action out of the stock and put a straightedge on the barrel. The bend should stand out! Now figure a way to apply force to the side opposite the bend. It doesn’t take much! Maybe 100-150 pounds! If the barrel and the rear of the action are supported on the side opposite the bend with a broad area of support, like a book, then an application of force opposite the bend should straighten the barrel.

    Yes, the local gun store is where to find a gunsmith. Some stores have them and others don’t. Ask at the store if they don’t have one, because, chances are, they know a good one in the area.

    And your friend should pay the repair bill!


  26. Jensen, I sure hope you can straighten out that barrel. You should be able to, but I found out the hard way that barrel assemblies are not available for that rifle.

    Beeman doesn’t sell parts for it, and at one point I even called the factory in China (Shanghai) and they were no help.

    I have the AR1000, which is the “Industry” brand of the same rifle. I ruined my barrel – it was bad to begin with – and I spent months trying to get a replacement from anywhere. I found out that the old Spanish Beeman S1 barrel assembly is a perfect fit (the rifles are extremely similar), so I suspect the GS1000 barrel would work – but that costs $110.

    I finally was able to adapt an old Shadow 1000 barrel to the breach block, and she’s finally shooting reasonably well.

  27. Yeah, my bud said he would pay for it as soon as I shared with him the damage. So no worries there. I already did some significant reaming on the barrel to bend if back into place. It helped alot, but I’ve still got some prying to do. I’m going to ask the local gunsmith if he can straighten it before I try any more. If I can’t find a gunsmith, or for whatever reason it is too much of a hassle to get someone else to do it, I’ll take my chances and bend it back myself. I’m just afraid of bending it sideways or something like that.

    Also, the barrel had some droop to it before. Should I bend it until it is straight again? Or should I bend it just past straight so it’s drooping again?


  28. B.B.

    I just wanted to say, Thank you for your dedication to this blog, and it’s readers. You’re really a big help. You not only write your articals, you take time to answer questions, whether they be on topic or not. Thank you!!!

    I’ve been following this blog for the past couple of weeks, and when it came time to ask my question, you addressed it promptly. Like I thought you would, but I was still pleased.

    Keep it up!!!


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